One of the things I loved about Cosmopolis was the style of the story-telling, the sense that each word was chosen very specifically. There is nothing casual about any musical reference, character name or the menu items. Everything has a meaning, or perhaps more than one. Something that really jumped out at me was the repetitive use of the number twenty-two.
He glanced out the one-way window to his left. It took him a moment to understand that he knew the woman in the rear seat of the taxi that lay adjacent. She was his wife of twenty-two days, Elise Shifrin, a poet who had right of blood to the fabulous Shifrin banking fortune of Europe and the world.
Read more and see if it charts, after the jump.
He looked at Chin, adrift in his jump seat, lost in rambling thought. “How old are you?”
“Twenty-two. What? Twenty-two.”
“You look younger. I was always younger than anyone around me. One day it began to change.”
“The way they build a stretch is this. They take a vehicle’s base unit and cut it in half with a huge throbbing buzz-saw device. Then they add a segment to lengthen the chassis by ten, eleven, twelve feet. Whatever desired dimension. Twenty-two feet if you like. While they were doing this to my car, I sent word that they had to proust it, cork-line it against street noise.”
The moon was mostly shadow, a waning crescent twenty-two days into its orbit, he estimated. He stood in the street. There was nothing to do. He hadn’t realized this could happen to him. The moment was empty of urgency and purpose. He hadn’t planned on this. Where was the life he’d always led? There was nowhere he wanted to go, nothing to think about, no one waiting. How could he take a step in any direction if all directions were the same?
So what does it mean? What would Eric make of this number popping up over and over on this particular day? I thought first about his business side, the fact that he’s charting all these “real numbers” as he battles the yen. There is a lot of mathematical significance to the number but on this day, logic does not seem to be his friend. Things aren’t charting.
Then I thought about the way his mind works – his voracious need to know and master everything. He has a meditation room and a Chief of Theory, whom he loves. He had his limousine ceiling painted with the star-alignment at the exact second of his birth. I wondered if Eric would have studied things like numerology and astrology.
So I googled the number twenty-two. Here’s what I found:
Moon phase meaning for the 22nd lunar day: “Waning — the moon is now gradually degenerating from being a full moon to being a mere crescent as the new moon phase is about to occur. The waning moon’s size degenerates from right to left and is considered to be the “left-hand moon” due to the likeness of a man’s left hand arc. The moon’s energy is not as its strongest and can be connected with the Goddess’ Crone character. Vedic scriptures denote that today is indeed lucky for journeys and traveling.” source
Did the word “degenerating” jump out at you? Plus, weakening energy. Although it is a good day for a journey. Whoa.
Then there is this.
Numerology meaning of repeated notice of the number 22: Then there are those who have it in their nature to apply extra effort to everything they do. They don’t just do their jobs. They do it better than is required. They apply themselves completely to everything they do. They are perfectionists. They demand the most of themselves. And not just in their jobs. Their spiritual experiences also reflect this. They don’t accept anything because it is easy, or convenient, or expected, or comfortable. They search and sacrifice. They question, and they put everything on the line for just one more little bit of understanding. They risk friendships and romance in the search for knowledge.
The 22 almost always deals with the productive part of your life; your job, your responsibilities, your creativity. You are either ignoring opportunities, or you are afraid of the potential results – even if they are promising (or precisely because they are promising). You are quite possibly at a stage in your life when the door is open to a promised land. Very scary. Can you handle it? source
Sounds a lot like Eric doesn’t it? Do you think he would have had this knowledge? Did the number twenty-two chart for Eric when the yen didn’t? Or is DeLillo planting information to deepen our understanding of Eric? Do you know any other meanings of the number 22? What other repetitive or striking references jumped out at you while reading Cosmopolis?
P.S. Look at the date.
It must be discussed!
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